Issue 23;

Sejiki altar


Halloween Sesshin Hope House, Hebden Bridge - 27th October – 2nd November 2013

By Sam Bartlett

The start of our new tenancy in Hope House was initiated with a 5 day retreat, led by Ingen Breen, who has been actively encouraging and supporting our practice here in Hebden Bridge for the past few years. 

The 5 day retreat was an intensive formal practice period, which had 13 sitters, including Ingen, intimately assembled in the front sitting room, which has been set up as a zendo to encourage and support further practice. Each day started with us on our cushions (or chairs or benches) at 6am and ended there at 9. 30pm, after an evening Dharma talk included.

The theme for the week was Hungry Ghosts and practice included daily rehearsals for a Sejiki procession, which took place on Halloween.  Traditionally, the Hungry Ghosts represented ancestors who had not been properly provided with what they need to flourish in the afterlife. However, the Hungry Ghost also describes a psychological condition inherent in us all, where one is never satisfied, or fully capable of living and appreciating what each moment has to offer. This procession provided an opportunity to address this suffering, by offering food, chanting and remembering those close to us who had recently died. It was a noisy, colourful and powerfully playful ritual, which was enjoyed by all, including Devin and Nicky’s children who looked on in silent wonder…

This 5 day sesshin saw us sitting and eating oryoki style together in the zendo. This intense period was punctuated by the different forms and ceremonies, which I am beginning to understand, provide a neutral mirror to reflect ones patterns, and opportunities to welcome and work with those…this is what I have been left with, along with an experience of intimate, generous and compassionate containment that has allowed me to do that. I feel blessed. Thankyou to all that enabled that, I hope to see us sitting together again soon.

Bows and blessings,


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